Tasting notes for Wines of the Year 2014

Red

Graci, Barbabecchi Etna Rosso DOC 2011, Italy
Though a sample of a finished byt unreleased wine, I could not resist awarding this beautiful red from the extraordinary Barbabecchi vineyard of ancient Nerello Mascalese vines that sits 1000 metres up Etnas’s smouldering slopes. Very rich colour, deep and vibrant, with a touch of amber at the rim: immediate suggestion of elegance. Fantastic nose, lots of leafiness, lots of autumnal character, like walking through a forest after the rain, with such delicate floral nuances, from old roses to touches of exotic spices. The palate has beautiful symmetry, with a depth of coffee and spice, but a sappiness too, a natural concentration. Gorgeous stuff, so deliciously complex, soft and yet with that energy and life-force through to the finish that is endlessly long and delicately nuanced. Tasting history in the glass. 96/100. See all stockists of Graci on wine-searcher.com

White

Yabby Lake, Block 1 Chardonnay 2012, Australia
I so nearly chose the 2012 Clos Saint Urbain Alsace Riesling from Zind Humbrecht, but in the end this wine won out. What a hugely complex nose on this wine made from a small parcel taken from one of the three blocks that constitute the excellent and cheaper (£33) Single Vineyard Chardonnay. It was whole bunch pressed into 500-litre French oak casks and fermented with wild yeasts. The family resemblance between this and the Single Vineyard Chardonnay is obvious, but this has such beautiful salt-licked, seashell freshness and tight, pure core of grapefruit and apple. Absolutely ravishing stuff on the palate with immense concentration and fantastic precision to the fruit. Pin-point acidity and then the gently persistent creaminess of the oak flowing through to an endless finish. 96/100. £59.00, Swig, see all stockists on wine-searcher

Budget Red

Jean Foillard, Morgon Côte du Py 2011, France
OK, the cheapest single bottle price I can see is a shade over £20, but there are various retailers selling by the 6 or 12 bottles which shade it just below. It is a stunning wine from a great vintage and one of the world’s great wine estates: redolent of meat, game and earth, but not nearly as brutal as that sounds: this has abundant charm and beautiful fruit too, a wonderfully nuanced palate riven with tight, mineral, briary Gamay concentration and lovely balance. A superb wine for drinking now or cellaring for a decade. 94/100. £20.75, AG Wines, see all stockists on wine-searcher.

Budget White

Jean-Claude Berrouet, Herri Mina Irouléguy 2012, France
A biodynamic white wine from the foothills of the Pyrenées, this is a typical Irouléguy blend of Gros Manseng and Petit Courbu, it is also naturally fermented with indigenous yeasts. In fact I tasted the 2011 vintage earlier in the year and loved it – scoring it 93/100 too – but as this is the current vintage for sale, it gets the vote. It has a striking, pungent nose with passion and gooseberry punch and exotic nuances. Peach skins and lemon rind add extra layers, and there’s a suggestion of grippy character and some nuttiness too. The palate has real crunch, freshness and grip – a really gorgeous mouthful of vibrant stuff, shimmering with life. Did I mention that owner/winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet spent three decades as winemaker at Château Pétrus? 93/100. £14.25, Corney & Barrow.

Sweet

Château Suduiraut 2009, France
On a visit to Suduiraut I tasted a dozen vintages, with stars like the 2001 also shining so brightly. But my hearrt was stolen by this, where the truffle character is pronounced amd there is such richness, with orange rind and honey, that toffeeish, barley sugar note and a touch of fig. Lovely palate, so glycerol rich, with masses of sweetness and so much weight and texture. An almost chewy concentration, so delightfully balanced, lemon rind and lots of pepper and complexity, but sizzling freshness. 155g/residual sugar. 97/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com

Sparkling

Dom Pérignon, Vintage Champagne 1998 ‘P2’, France
The Wine Gang’s ‘Ultimate Champagne Evening’ was a treat as we tasted 10 exquisite top wines. But for me the star of the show was this late-disgorged release from Dom Pérignon. ‘P2’ or ‘Second Plenitude’, is a range of wines that will be released around 7 or 8 years later than normal, with that extra time having been spent on the lees. This has just the most fabulous and exotic aroma, with toast and nuttiness as is so typical of Dom Pérignon, but a wonderfully complex, perfumed, almost tropical nuance too, that lovely buttery brioche richness and endless layering. In the mouth the cushioning, rich mousse supports pin-sharp, mineral acidity, a thrilling length and line to this, whilst all the time those burgeoning, mouth-filling flavours and deeper notes begin to fill the palate. A fantastic Champagne I have to say. 98/100. From around £225.00 per bottle, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Fortified

Campbells, Rare Rutherglen Muscat Merchant Prince, Australia
This is the rarest and oldest of Campbells Muscats, containing 60-year-old components. It is wondrous stuff, which is why I have included it, even though it is currently only available ‘in-bond’ at around £38 per half bottle, giving a retail price of around £47-£48. Thick as engine oil and extraordinarily intense, it is dark as night with espresso, plump rum-soaked raisins and shimmering acidity to balance. Note that Campbells Classic Muscat is a lot easier to buy, including £19.95 at slurp.co.uk, and is a slightly lighter but delicious alternative (93 points). This earns 96/100. £47.00 per 37.5cl, Bordeaux Index.

Dud

Cantata, Barolo 2010, Italy
Aldi has quite a few excellent wines on its shelves so this is not meant to knock them in general terms, and indeed the 1995 Château Troplong Mondot Saint-Emilion in Waitrose at £145 almost took this ignonimous title (tough as old boots and I have severe doubts whether it will ever come around), but this wine is proof that if getting a proper, DOCG Barolo on the shelves for £9.99 seems too good to be true, then that’s because it really is too good to be true. Pale tawny in colour, the nose is not unattractive at first with a touch of truffle and leafiness, then a slightly antiseptic quality emerges. On the palate it really has zero fruit, and zero charm. It really is a lean, mean, fruitless travesty of a noble name. 70/100. £9.99, Aldi


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